The Shrinking Catholic Church?

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In Eric Margolis’ piece on John Paul II he states, “Under John Paul, the Roman Catholic Church has declined in adherents, but it has grown stronger and more vital.” This claim of declining adherents seems a bit fishy to me since Paul Johnson made such a point in his Modern Times of emphasizing the growth of Christianity as THE unexpected story of the last quarter of the 20th century.

I found the following statistics that seem to corroborate my understanding:
World Catholic Population
1970 653.3m
2000 1.045b

There are two possible interpretations to save Margolis on this. Either he only meant in the West, which probably has seen at least relative decline, or he meant percentage decline worldwide which I’m not sure is the case without running some numbers.
Whatever the case, the much expected decline of religion in general and Christianity in particular has not happened except for within Western Europe… See Philip Jenkins work on Christianity in the Southern parts of the world. I agree with Paul Johnson that the high tide of atheism, and probably secularism as well, is past.

11:51 am on October 20, 2003